Curry Senior Center Fights for Positive Changes in the Tenderloin

SFCCC Board Chair Dave Knego, Executive Director of Curry Senior Center, was recently featured in an article entitled "Tenderloin nonprofits vs. bad apple corner stores" by C.W. Nevius of the SF Chronicle:
A shortened version of the article appears below:

David Knego is executive director of Curry Senior Center on Turk Street in the grittiest part of the Tenderloin. The center serves breakfast and lunch to over 200 indigent seniors a day, and they are often fearful given the constant street activity — drug dealing, violence and theft.

Knego says there was a shooting at the nearby TL Tobacco and Market in January. In October, a man was shot and killed on the front step of his center. He hired a security guard and installed lights and cameras, but he and the people at the neighborhood’s other service agencies know where the real problems originate — the handful of lawless corner stores.

So, the neighborhood service agencies — 25 of them — formed the Golden Gate Block Safety Network. They began to document illegal activity and send e-mails to Tenderloin police Capt. Jason Cherniss. They got the city attorney’s office involved and sent what is called a “demand letter,” saying that there was public nuisance activity taking place, which is the first step toward legal action.

 “Big Boy Market knew that eventually a lawsuit was coming,” said Cherniss. “There was finally enough community activity and documentation that it convinced the property owner not to renew the lease. He didn’t want to get sued.”

Now a walk down Golden Gate shows a city block transformed. Without Big Boy Market, there’s no place to fence stolen goods, get change for drug deals or hide from scrutiny.

“When Big Boy closed, there was a change overnight,” said Michael Anderer, a vice president of De Marillac Academy Catholic school.

…In what feels like a sea change in the TL, the service agencies in the area — places like the St. Anthony Foundation, De Marillac Academy and the Curry Senior Center — are making a concentrated effort to take back the streets.

Their initial weapons — popcorn, poetry and music. The first week of each a month, neighborhood businesses and service organizations stage “4 Corner Friday.” Lutheran Social Services sets up a ring toss game; Local 2, the union that represents hospitality workers, rolls out a popcorn machine, and De Marillac hands out books and packages of seeds.